Broadreach Reaches Out to Providers

By Eric Griffith

April 07, 2004

Using the 'Virtual AP' technology on Colubris boxes, the UK WISP will be able to offer service from multiple providers in a venue using just one piece of hardware.

When Colubris Networks introduced "Virtual AP" functions in its products in January, the technology was an interesting solution that seemed to be in search of a problem to solve. The Virtual AP technology lets one single Colubris box support as many as 16 different service set identifiers (SSIDs) -- the name by which an individual wireless LAN would be recognized. Fascinating, but where would it be used?

Broadreach Networks, one of the leading wireless ISPs in the United Kingdom, is the first to answer. It will be using the Virtual AP technology to provide a "white-label Wi-Fi product for third-party service providers," according to the company announcement.

Colubris's CEO Barry Fougere says it helps Broadreach "serve in both a retail and wholesale function. They have service for their subscribers, but also have roaming relationships with other providers, and can now provide them access."

Broadreach offers subscribers wireless Internet access via its ReadyToSurf service in 250 locations. Users of other WISP services could get access at those same locations if Broadreach sets up SSIDs for them on a Virtual AP. Thus users of WISPs like Virgin.net could get access through Broadreach equipment without ever having to change their usual method of logging in. (Broadreach is backed by Virgin, Intel, and British Telecom.)

The Colubris hardware to will be used by Broadreach in this venture are the new CN3200 gateway and the CN320 "repeater" for extending range. Both are designed specifically for the public access market and support Virtual AP.

Broadreach has not announced any specific carriers or WISPs that will be working with them but has mentioned Vodafone and Orange in passing; Virgin.net and BT OpenWorld are listed as existing partners at the company Web site. Broadreach will essentially auction off the eight SSIDs it will make available. They have the ability to add more in the future if needed, as the Colubris hardware supports up to 16 Virtual APs.

Broadreach will soon offer a single fee for access that will cover from six months to a year of unlimited usage, reportedly under #100 ($180) for a year.



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